Memphis Meats, Just, Fork & Goode, BlueNalu and Finless Foods have founded an alliance to represent the cell-based meat, poultry and seafood industry. The Alliance for Meat, Poultry & Seafood Innovation, or AMPS Innovation, will lobby in Washington, D.C., to educate consumers about cell-based products and serve as a marketplace of ideas for its members, according to Quartz.
Representatives of the five companies — three developing cell-based meat and two working on seafood — have met weekly for the past year to compare notes on common issues, Quartz said. Now that they have a more formal organization, progress toward market introduction may move faster, the publication noted.
The alliance is looking at how the industry will be regulated and what to call its products, according to Politico. The current consensus is for the terms cell-based or cultured meat, which describes the process of taking animal cells and growing new muscle tissue from them in a controlled environment. Politico said the alliance doesn't plan to hire staff but is coordinating with the Glover Park Group communications and lobbying firm, which also represents Memphis Meats.
As these companies move forward on developing cell-based food products, it makes sense for them to join together as a group to advocate for their common regulatory and marketing benefit. A more formal organization could also help introduce the products to the public and allay concerns about their safety.
Andrew Noyes, a spokesman for Just, told Quartz the cell-based industry needs to "separate fact from fiction."
"We need to talk to folks who are consumers and folks on the hill … about the industry and the products that we hope to bring to market, that they will be safe and transparent," he said.
A more unified message also could help cell-based companies respond to final regulations coming from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. After a period of confusion, they agreed in March to jointly regulate the industry. The FDA will oversee cell collection, growth and differentiation, while the USDA will regulate production and labeling of the resulting food products.
Speaking with one voice on issues that are shared among the companies is likely to be an advantage to the alliance's members as opposed to individual businesses trying to represent themselves. Once the group establishes its presence in Washington, D.C., and if it starts to gain momentum, chances are good that it will attract new members to the cause.
So far, the alliance only includes U.S. cell-based firms, but other companies based overseas could be interested in joining if they plan to introduce products here and want to have a U.S. presence beforehand. Israeli startup Aleph Farms is a possibility because it has developed a cell-grown minute steak and recently received $12 million from a group of investors, including Cargill. Another cell-based firm in Israel, Future Meat Technologies, has attracted investment from Tyson Foods' VC arm while Netherlands-based Mosa Meat received $8.8 million from Merck's VC unit and other investors.
On the seafood side, Shiok Meats in Singapore raised $4.6 million earlier this year to fund work on cell-cultured shrimp. All those companies are working hard to be first to market with their products, so they might see alliance membership as another pragmatic path toward that goal.
Other food companies have been forming organizations lately to better advance their agendas. Danone North America, Mars, Nestlé USA and Unilever USA launched the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance last summer to work on public policies shaping what people eat and how it affects the planet. The Plant Based Foods Association, established in 2016, now represents 153 diverse companies, including Campbell Soup.
As Politico pointed out, this new cell-based alliance is not likely to be well-received by major livestock groups such as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Pork Council. Conventional meat and poultry producers tend to view cell-based products as "fake meat" and vehemently oppose such items carrying meat-like label terms.
As a result, no matter how well-organized this alliance becomes — or how successful it turns out to be — the cell-based industry could face more political obstacles than technical ones.